EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The University of Texas at El Paso swore in nine ROTC cadets as commissioned officers in the U.S. Army during a ceremony at Centennial Plaza Friday afternoon.
UTEP President Heather Wilson was the guest speaker and presided over the swearing-in oath where the cadets of the Fighting Miners Battalion became second lieutenants. In her prepared remarks, she congratulated the five men and four women on their achievements and thanked them for their selflessness.
“Each of you here today has not only met the scholarly requirements of your degrees, you have chosen to be part of that small group of Americans who protect the rest of us in a very unpredictable world,” she said.
The ceremony was especially significant to President Wilson, who is a 1982 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. Wilson, who also served as the 24th Secretary of Air Force asked each officer to become lifelong learners, build partnerships and strengthen alliances, and to trust themselves, their soldiers, and the citizens they have sworn to protect.
The small outdoor ceremony was conducted using social distancing guidelines. All participants wore masks, except during the speaking portion of the ceremony and the pinning was done by family members who live in the same household as the student cadets.
The Military Science program named 2nd Lt. Leo Hapeman Jr., as its 2020 Distinguished Honor Graduate. He will graduate magna cum laude from UTEP with a bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies and a 3.91 GPA. He will join the Army’s military intelligence branch.
The commissioning ceremony included the pinning of gold lieutenant’s shoulder boards and the traditional “First Salute” where the new officers present a silver dollar to the first enlisted soldier who salutes them.
Each new officer also had the opportunity to make a commissioning speech that often included their gratitude to family, friends, faculty and military mentors for their love and support. Some had served as active-duty soldiers before they decided to pursue their college degrees, and some earned military scholarships. Their branches of service included Military Intelligence and Human Resources in the Army and the Army Reserves.
The event also included celebratory comments from Lt. Col. Jason Albright, chair and professor of UTEP’s Military Science program. He told the new officers that their University education and military training gave them the tools they would need to achieve any goals they set for themselves.
The former cadets learned about first aid, leadership, land navigation, physical fitness, written and oral communications. Army leaders tested the cadets’ knowledge and their adherence to the Army’s seven core values – duty, respect, honor, loyalty, integrity, selfless service, and personal courage – during a five-week camp at Fort Knox, Kentucky, during the summer of 2019. These new second lieutenants are the latest to commission through the UTEP Military Science program that was established in 1948. It has produced more than 1,900 officers throughout the years.